Minnehaha Academy Blog

French Students Take Home Honors for 2020

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 23, 2020


Both Middle and High School French students were honored for their hard work this year. Check out their achievements below!

2020 Upper School French Honors

Minnesota Department of Education Certificate of Achievement at the Intermediate Level (Makes the recipient eligible for up to two semesters of credit at Minnesota State Colleges.)

Avary Lessard
Claire Fortier
Julia Harris
Ava Knight
Josh St. Andrew
Max Yepez
Alexis Jacoby
Ethan Lessard


2020 MS French Exams

Middle School French students have acquitted themselves very well again this year on Le Grand Concours (the National French contest).

Seventh Grade French Honors:
In 7th grade we have 5 students, we had 2 honorable mentions:

Honorable Mention
18th Nationally and 5th in Minnesota
Giselle Geyer

19th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Miles Léon Kormann


Eighth Grade French Honors:
8th grade has 11 students.

Honorable Mention
16th Nationally and 14th in Minnesota
Oletha Angélique Collins 

19th Nationally and 17th in Minnesota
Aaron Daniel Melling

18th Nationally and 16th in Minnesota
Owen “Paul” Stanley

20th Nationally and 18th in Minnesota
Evelin Ève Garcia Balmaceda


Bronze Medalists
12th Nationally and 10th in Minnesota
Beckett “Bruno” Pilling


Silver Medalists
8th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Tito “Cédric” Sanchez

8th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Robert “Xavier” Wilson

7th Nationally and 5th in Minnesota
Kana “Adeline” Try


Gold Medalists
4th Nationally and 2nd in Minnesota
Elaina “Célia” Johnson


Félicitations à tous!

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Upper School, Academics

Upper and Middle School Latin Exam: An Excellent Showing!

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 16, 2020


Every year Minnehaha Academy Latin students test their knowledge on the National Latin Exam. This year both Middle and Upper School students continued the tradition of excellence.

Only about 40% of students who take this test win an award of any kind.  At MA, the percentage of Middle School students who earn an award is 73%! 

Upper School students also held their own, pulling in 23 individual awards. Here’s the breakdown of those honors:


Latin IA Awards:

28 students took the test and 18 students won awards. 

Special Certificate of Achievement:
Máximo Maximus Martín
Finley Valeria Lefebvre
A.J. Alma Carlson
B Alma Sahlstrom
Elizabeth Prima Lee Gonzalez
Gisella Viviana Harder
Kaden Ignatius Wali
Benny Tiro Carlson
Leah Lucretia DiNardo
Mimi Veronica Blomgren

Outstanding Achievement:
Audrey Gaia Osterberg
Jaeda Anastasia Hutchinson
Lucas Lucius Eckman
Sophia Aula Verdoorn
Ben Augustinus Noble
Jeffrey Victor Ratliff
Makai Ioannes Bates*
Henry Horatius Olson*

*Missed only ONE question!


8th Grade Latin Awards:

12 students took the test and we had 8 winners. 

Cum Laude (with praise) Award:
Gavin Petrus Beck

Magna Cum Laude (with great praise) Award:
Savannah Silvia Switzer
Charlotte Catharina Wold
Gabrielle Aemilia Wamre

Silver Medal, Maxima Cum Laude (with greatest praise) Award:
Solomon Rufus O’Bert
Aidan Larius Ghylin
Ben Marcus Stromberg
Hailey Tulllllllia Hill 

Gold Medal, Summa Cum Laude (with highest praise) Award: 
Sienna Fulvia Kath

Gratulationes omnibus!  We are so proud of you all!



Level Two

Cum Laude
Victoria Hoekstra
David John

Magna Cum Laude
Simon Poelman
Lincoln Reichenau

Maxima Cum Laude, Silver Medal
Owen Hagedorn
Lars Ramgren
Ellie Novak
Benji Koeckeritz
Owen Hoffner
Geoffrey Shrantz

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Grace Kassebaum


Level Three 

Cum Laude
Zeke Daniel

Magna Cum Laude
Isaac Kostecky


Level Four 

Magna Cum Laude
Tim Siems
Leah Wasson
Chris Olson
Jordon Bates

Maxima Cum Laude, Silver Medal
Annika Currell
Gabriel King

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Alexis Stanley (Fourth Gold Medal)


Level 5 

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Sophie King
Clara Stein
Andrew Karpenko

Amazing job, students! Thank you for your consistent commitment to excellence.

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Upper School, Academics

Senior Honors: Class of 2020

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 9, 2020


It's been quite the journey for the class of 2020: This group of students passed through three separate buildings (the old Upper School building, Mendota campus, the new 3100 building), saw two shut downs for health safety (norovirus in 2017 and covid-19 this year), watched multiple teams take state championships, and pulled in one award after another for their academic excellence.

"From the explosion to the coronavirus, our class has grown stronger together," says senior Jenna. "Minnehaha seniors have really been through it all. We've learned that things may not go our way or how we expect...but we've learned how to adjust to adversity and how to overcome it. Through it all, the class of 2020 has come out stronger than ever and ready to take on the world."

Here is a run down of the honors and awards handed out at this year’s Senior Honors Night:


Minnehaha Academy Distinguished Graduates
Jack Daenzer ● Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein

Minnehaha Academy 4.0 Scholars
Allison Callstrom ● Mia Curtis ● Jack Daenzer ● Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko Tessa Leiner ● Clara Stein ● Brynne Whitman

National Merit Finalists
Jack Daenzer ● Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein

National Merit Commended Scholars
Patrick Cullinan ● Samuel Harris ● Annika Johnson 


 Leadership - Citizenship - Scholarship Awards

AAA Academics, Arts and Athletics Award
Jordan Brown ● Andrew Karpenko (also winner at the regional level)

American Legion Citizenship Award
Elaina Drake ● Kaden Johnson

Dennis and Marcia Pearson Award
Arne Christiansen ● Danyelle Robinson

Minnehaha Academy Exemplary Service Award
Trent Chiodo ● McKenzie Thompson

Minnehaha Award
Danyelle Robinson

President’s Award in Arts & Scholarship
Grace Anderson ● Patrick Cullinan

President’s Award in Athletics, Leadership, and Scholarship
Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko

Principal’s Leadership Award
Arne Christiansen ● Mia Curtis

Ruth Berg and John Carlson Servant Leadership Award
Trent LeVahn ● Evelyn Ramgren

Sons of the American Revolution Award
Juliette Kline


Athletic Awards

Athletic Director Josh Thurow called the 2020 class "The greatest athletic class in school history."

Athena Award
Kate Pryor

Best Senior Athletes
Jalen Suggs ● Mia Curtis

Three Sport Athletes
Trace Chiodo ● Arne Christiansen ● Pearl Fallin ● Taly Gentolizo ● Kylee Kassebaum ● Isaac Laddusaw ● Terry Lockett ● Kate Pryor ● Peter Shaffer ● Bennett Thurow


English Department Award

Fitzgerald Award
Clara Stein


Fine Arts Department Awards

John Phillip Sousa Award
Andrew Karpenko

Louis Armstrong Jazz Award
Adam Coles

National School Choral Award
William Hite ● Juliette Kline

Excellence in Theatre Performance Award
Grace Anderson ● Trent Chiodo

Media Arts Award: Excellence in Filmmaking
Arne Christiansen


French Department Award

Minnesota Department of Education Certificates in French
Trent Chiodo ● Peter Fortier ● Sam Harris ● Kate Hennings ● Brynne Whitmann


Latin Department Award

National Latin Exam: Gold Medals 
Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein


Mathematics Awards

Council of Presidential Awardees in Math
Sam Harris ● Annika Johnson ● Michael DiNardo ● Jack Daenzer ● Andrew Karpenko

Newton Award
Patrick Cullinan ● Clara Stein


Senior Science Award
Clara Stein


Congratulations, seniors! We are so proud of your hard work and commitment to excellence. May you continue to find joy and success in the next leg of your journey!

Topics: Awards, Upper School, Academics

Top 8 Tips for Online Learning

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 17, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-4 copyAs teachers and students plan for online learning, we wanted to share these top eight tips that will help set students up for success during online learning (or distance learning).

  1. Attend class: This may seem like a basic tip, but the best way to get the most out of online learning is to treat it just as you would a school day. Show up to class on time and ready to learn.
  2. Complete assignments: Assignments given during online learning are just as important to complete as assignments given during a more typical class experience. By completing your assignments on time and with care, you'll keep up with your studies and be ready to hit the ground running when you are back in the classroom.
  3. Create a workspace: Set up a special spot for you to complete your classwork and join online class discussions. Having a set spot for your learning will ensure you have the tools you need to do your work. Think about what you'll need for your class (pencils, art supplies, paper, books, digital device, headphones, etc). 
  4. Set a schedule: Your teacher will most likely provide a daily schedule for you during the school day. Keeping a schedule will help you stay on track with your work, will remind you to take breaks, and will help you create a rhythm to your day. It's also rewarding to look back at your daily schedule and see all of the amazing things you've accomplished!
  5. Reduce distractions: Working from home can be quite distracting. When you set up your workspace, find a quiet space to sit. Remember to shut off the TV, music, and eliminate social media distractions- just as you would if you were in a classroom. 
  6. Think about how you learn best: When do you do your best work? Is it in the morning or afternoon? Plan on doing work that requires creative energy and thought at those times.  Also, consider how you learn. Do you learn best through listening, reading, or doing? Work with your teacher to determine ways you can learn the material using your preferred learning method. 
  7. Participate: Just because you aren't sitting next to your classmates and teachers doesn't mean you shouldn't join in on the learning. Chime in on class discussions and set up times to chat with classmates to work on group assignments.
  8. Take Breaks: Remember to step away from your desk to stretch, take a walk around the block, play a game, or spend time with your family. It's important to take breaks that will leave you feeling refreshed. It can be easy to sit in front of a screen all day, but remember that you'll do best by stepping outside for fresh air or a conversation with family.

We've also included this Online Etiquette Guide for online learning created by our Middle School science teacher Emily Firkus with her students.

Google Meet Etiquette white background


Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Academics, Online Learning

Yearbook Staff Awarded by International Journalism Honor Society

Posted by Amy Barnard on Dec 17, 2019

2019-Quill-and-Scroll-Awardees copy

Quill and Scroll, an international high school journalism society with nearly 100 years of history honored four Minnehaha Academy students as well as the yearbook staff as a whole last week for their work.

The staff received Quill and Scroll's Blue and Gold award in the area of Comprehensive Visuals for the selection of photos they entered in the contest.

The following students received individual awards:

Lily McClelland, Junior: First place overall in the clubs/organizations photo division, below.

11 Clubs service interns Lily McClelland
McClelland's photo of Sammi '19 and Annika '19 collecting blankets for a charity drive. 
Anna Noble, Junior: Second place, feature photo, below.
12 Feature photo swingset Anna Noble
Noble's photo of Linnea Askegaard '21 and Abby Hobrough '21 playing with children during last year's Cultural Field Experience.
Josh St. Andrew, Sophomore: Second place, student life photo, below.
10 Student Life diploma Josh
St. Andrew's photo of Olivia '19 receiving her diploma from her father, Lower School instructor Jeff Bosshardt.
Stella Berlin, Sophomore: Third place, academic photo, below.
9 Academic photo Line drawing Stella
Berlin's photo of Bekah Hoyle '22 in art class.
Congrats on a job well done, yearbook staff!
Send me information about Minnehaha Academy!




Topics: Awards, Academics, Exceptional Academics

Courtney (Anderson) DaCosta '99 Comes Full Circle

Posted by Amy Barnard on Nov 26, 2019


Even a stint working for the US government in the intelligence community and a law degree from Georgetown couldn't keep alum Courtney (Anderson) DaCosta ‘99 away from Minnesota. For DaCosta, coming home meant both coming back to the Twin Cities and also coming home to Minnehaha Academy.

2019-Courtney-Place of Influence

“I feel like most Minnesota girls end up finding a way to bring their significant others back to Minnesota,” she says, laughing.

Today, Courtney is senior legal counsel for employment and benefits at 3M, a global industrial, healthcare, and consumer products company headquartered in St. Paul whose household brands include Post-it®, Scotch®, and Command®.   

Courtney didn’t grow up knowing that she wanted to enter the world of employment and benefits law, or that she would one day return so fully to her roots.

A Minnehaha Academy lifer, DaCosta thoroughly enjoyed her math and science classes and planned to find a career that would incorporate this foundation. During her sophomore year at Dartmouth College, though, she found herself gravitating towards the social sciences and a degree in government. While in college, she interned with a US Senator in Washington, DC, and worked on a major political campaign.

“I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do right after college; I had a thought that I might want to go to law school,” she says, “but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to that yet.”


DaCosta with her parents during her volleyball years at Dartmouth.


She moved to DC, the hub of all things political and public service, to pursue an opportunity to work as an intelligence analyst with the federal government. It seemed like the right fit for the time: She could be in DC, where her then-boyfriend (now husband), Jason, also worked, as well as explore options for the future.

While DaCosta enjoyed her job as an analyst, the pull of home still played at the back of her mind.

“Ultimately it was important to me to have the ability to move back to the Twin Cities, and that likely would not have been a realistic option on my then-current career path,” she explains.

DaCosta finished her two years in the intelligence community and then plunged into a law degree at Georgetown, graduating with her JD in 2008. When it came time to determine the next step, she and Jason decided to relocate to the Twin Cities.  Courtney completed a clerkship with a federal appellate judge before joining Minneapolis-based global law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP as an associate, while Jason opened the Twin Cities office of technology company Alarm.com, Inc.  After about four years with Dorsey, in 2013, Courtney joined 3M, where she has served in a variety of roles, both as an employment and benefits attorney and a business attorney. 

“When I think back through my education—high school, college, law school—it’s been more important in terms of my career to be able to think critically about problems and solutions and to know where to go to find information, than it has been to learn facts, and I think that was a strength of MA.”

DaCosta remembers working in English class under Dr. Barbara Olson, learning to research and to write clear, concise, and convincing pieces, a foundation that serves her well even to this day.

She also says that MA instilled in her the importance of being a good citizen of the world and of maintaining relationships with people in one’s life; for her, this has played out in pro bono work with nonprofits serving children and families in need as well as regularly reconnecting with her high school friends.

Based on her own positive experience, it might seem obvious that DaCosta’s return to Minnesota would include enrolling any future children at Minnehaha Academy. Adding to that is her family history: As you enter the front offices at the Lower and Middle School, a plaque honoring Courtney’s grandmother, Arlene Anderson, hangs to the right of the door. 


Arlene Anderson, from the announcement celebrating her 39 years at MA.

Anderson worked at Minnehaha Academy from 1945 to 1984, first as a History and English teacher, and later as the Dean of Students, Dean of Instruction, and then Middle School Principal. Later, she served on the Board of Trustees and eventually as board chair.

She was so connected to the school, and was very proud of it and very committed to it,” DaCosta says. Consistent with her deep connection to the school, Anderson’s memorial service was held at the Upper School.

DaCosta’s father, Arlene’s son—David Anderson ’67—is also an MA alum and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

In spite of all of this, before committing to enroll their oldest child, Flynn, in the preschool program last year, the DaCostas met with current parents, members of the school leadership team, and others connected to the school.

“I had a really great experience at the school, but I wanted to make sure that the school as it exists now was a place I felt comfortable having our kids attend, and that my husband felt that it was the right school for our family as well.”

A year later, with Flynn in Kindergarten and little sister Claire looking ahead to preschool next year, the family’s choice to commit to the MA community still feels right, says DaCosta, noting that she could tell that Flynn’s teachers at the Lower School have really loved him and that he has loved them back. Equally special, she says, is knowing that her son is in the place that both her grandmother and father have loved and to which they have committed so much of their time and energy.


Flynn's first day of PreK last year.

“I think sometimes, when I take Flynn to school, [that my grandmother] never got a chance to meet her grandkids; but I know that she would have adored them and that she would have been especially proud that they are at the school.”

While DaCosta had already made the return to Minnesota and stayed close to her MA friends, in a way it was as Flynn started his journey at MA this past year that she truly came full circle.

“I’m looking forward to my kids being able to experience MA in many ways similar to how I did,” she says, “but also, [it will be] in a beautiful new place that my family has had a role in making happen...that makes me feel closely connected to the school as well.”


Join Minnehaha Academy! Learn how your child can shine at Minnehaha Academy - request Admission information today!

Topics: Alumni Stories, Academics

Giving Back: Alumni Make the Classroom

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 17, 2019


Jai Hanson (’03) didn’t come to speak at Minnehaha Academy last year because he was looking for advice from teenagers.

He came because, like so many who make this campus what it is, he wanted to give back to the place that launched him into the world.

“I really enjoyed my time at Minnehaha,” he says. “I loved the staff, and I still have friendships with people I knew in seventh grade...once you’re part of the MA community you’re part of it for life.”

So when Director of Diversity Paulita Todhunter asked Hanson to come speak with some students who were expressing fear and anxiety regarding recent incidents between police and individuals of color, he said “Absolutely.”

At the time, Hanson had more than a decade of experience in law enforcement under his belt and was finishing his Master of Public Safety Administration. He also had a growing passion to see improvement in the relationship between the law enforcement community and youth.

“I think it was helpful for students to meet a police officer who was familiar with their story of being a Minnehaha student and a person of color, and what it's like to be in both of those worlds,” says Ms. Todhunter. “He also gave them insight into the world of a police officer, which isn't always as black and white as it may seem.”

Bringing Back Expertise

Over the years, alumni like Hanson have stepped up to speak in classes, invite students into their businesses, and even mentor students and recent grads. As a community, we’ve found that having alumni who come back to share their expertise with students fosters deeper learning, provides opportunities for exploration, and often can be the catalyst that casts vision for future direction.

“Speakers bringing in ‘real world’ related experiences help strengthen and solidify the material for my students,” shares Julie Johnson, psychology and business instructor.

Johnson points to David Kvasnik (‘96) and wife Deena. The couple have been guest presenters to her Intro to Business class a number of times. Deena and David started their business, Deena's Gourmet, and grew it from a small family venture to a large business in a matter of years, ultimately selling it to Old Home. Their talks have given students real world examples and the opportunity to ask questions.

Fostering Deeper Learning


(L) Alum Diana Wallin speaks to Upper School students about brain science and (R) uses special goggles to teach Lower School students about the brain's adaptability.

Another campus visitor who leaves a mark every time she comes is Diana Wallin (‘03). While working on her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, Diana lived just over the river from Minnehaha Academy. During this time, she visited the Upper and Lower Schools multiple times with her “Brain Awareness” presentation, even bringing real brains (both human and animal) for students to study.

During one visit, Diana and fellow doctoral candidate Amanda Barks helped first graders develop their own scientific study:

Students stood in the hallway and tossed bean bags into a small cup. Then they put on special goggles that impaired their vision and tossed the bean bags again. All of the bean bags ended up to the right of the cup. They then took off the goggles and threw the bean bags again—this time they ended to the left of the cup. The students excitedly reviewed their “findings” to discover how the brain compensates for impaired vision.

Diana used this experience, along with a real human brain and spinal cord, to explain the concept of plasticity in the brain, as well as to teach students about brain health.

Even teacher Britt Guild was surprised at how much the students took away from the experience:

“Some students immediately made an intellectual connection between nerves and electricity while some connected emotionally to the experience after realizing the brain was from a real person. It was thrilling to see how no matter how complex we think an idea is, a young mind can surpass our expectations and understand so much more."

This opportunity to spark discovery in young minds is something Wallin herself finds rewarding:

“We always say you can’t do what you don’t see, or what you don’t know about.” She hopes that some students will discover a love for brain science and research, and that young women will see her work and recognize that there is a place for them in the world of science.

Offering Opportunities

debate photo copy

Mason Mitchell (far left) and Michael Everett (far right) back when Mason first started volunteering and Michael was still a student.

Alumni involvement also means more opportunities to explore beyond the classroom.

For a number of years Mason Mitchell (’09) and Michael Everett (’14) have blocked off numerous afternoons and Saturdays each fall to support MA’s debate students.

Mitchell is a circulation supervisor at the University of St. Thomas library, and as a veteran debater himself with degrees in philosophy, theology, and business, Mitchell is a prime choice to advise a debate team. A JD candidate at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Everett is also highly qualified to teach students the finer points of debating.

As a young college student roughly a decade ago, Mitchell both missed his debate experience at MA and saw a genuine need: Minnehaha faculty Nathan Johnson was the only coach for a growing number of students.

“One of the best things that Minnehaha has to offer is that students aren’t just treated like kids,” observes Mitchell. He points out that students get to interact with teachers on a very personal level in small classes and that this experience pushes them to excellence and maturity. Seeing the growing size of the debate team, Mitchell wanted to come alongside Mr. Johnson to help give students that personalized growth experience.

Mitchell shares that debate offers a very specific growing experience that meant a lot to him as a student, and now he enjoys walking current students through that process.

“Debate forces you to not just work on your research skills, not just work on presentation skills, but to put it all together in one package and be more spontaneous and engaging.” He points out that even students who start out as reserved or “wall flowers” grow through the process until four years later some of those same students are the ones jumping at the chance to get up in front of the whole school to give a presentation.

Thanks to Mitchell, Everett, and others who have stepped in pro bono over the years, Minnehaha Academy offers debaters the chance to grow exponentially over the course of their Upper School career.

Casting Vision

2019-Jonathan Thomas copy

One essential ingredient for growth is vision for where you are going. For Jonathan Thomas (‘11), speaking at MA was a chance to cast the same vision his mother set for him so many years ago: love Jesus and pursue education.

Thomas transferred to Minnehaha Academy as a seventh grader, a move instigated by his mother and one he was not happy about.

“I thought I was fine at the school I attended,” he says, “however my mother saw that I was going down a bad path with friends who didn’t have my best interests at heart.” His mother wanted to see Thomas in “a Christian environment that would foster healthy spiritual and intellectual development.” Thomas wasn’t particularly interested in either.

Fast forward nearly 15 years and Thomas is working towards a master’s degree in strategic leadership and has a side gig as a traveling preacher. He looks back on his time at MA as one of the most positive experiences in his life, and he wants current students to make the most of the opportunity they’ve been given.

Thomas, whose mother passed away while he was still at MA, exhorted students to trust God through trials and the sometimes bumpy transition to adulthood, as well as encouraged them to pursue higher education.

Because we never know what seed will be planted in a student’s heart—to nurture their spiritual walk, become an entrepreneur, face a challenge that feels bigger than themselves—we continue to invite alumni to share their stories with Minnehaha students.

Providing Opportunities for “Big Discussions”

All of this brings us back to Jai Hanson’s experience sharing at MA. In addition to sharing about his own journey as a police officer, Hanson wanted to open the floor for any lingering questions so students could process some of the “whys” behind law enforcement decisions. He also asked students what they wanted and needed from those in law enforcement.

To understand the dynamics of this discussion, it’s helpful to know that teachers work with Minnehaha students from a young age to develop the skills for having difficult conversations respectfully. This was an opportunity to put those skills into action, both for Hanson and the students.

What could have been a tense time actually resulted in a meaningful discussion that left an impact on both the students and Hanson himself.

“My intention was to go there to answer questions and help students,” says Hanson, “but I left with students’ perspectives that I brought back to my police department. The students really gave me more insight than I probably gave them. I took a lot away from that and I’m thankful for that.”

Ultimately, we’ve found that having an alumni community that reconnects with our students is a win-win: the students benefit from the experience and insight of alumni, and like Hanson often share that they took away something from the experience:

“It’s easy to get into your profession and just do your normal thing. When you talk to students it reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you got into your career.” For the students Hanson met with, it was a chance to both better understand all sides of a difficult story, as well as to have their voice heard in a meaningful way.

Topics: Alumni Stories, Academics, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

Student-Led Book Fair Marketing

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 10, 2019

A special thanks to the parents , teachers, and former parents whose artistic skills made this year's trip to Oz all the more special!

In order to connect the classroom more tightly to real-world scenarios, the Middle School called on eighth graders to take a lead role in marketing this year’s book fair.

Through the project, the students learned to examine and evaluate marketing materials, think through diverse audiences, pitch a concept, receive critique, and make adjustments based on feedback.

Product Conception

Taking the cue from methods used in current marketing practices, library assistant Susan Besser and art instructor Steve Taminga introduced the needs of the customer (the Lower and Middle School Library) to the marketing team (eighth grade art students).

They explained that the library was partnering with Scholastic to be the publisher’s “brick and mortar” store for the week October 7th, and they needed help advertising the event through promotional posters.

The instructors and students discussed the differences between their two primary audiences (Lower and Middle School students) and examined sample marketing materials, thinking through things that have and haven’t worked well in the past.

Taking Critique


From here the students were sent off to prepare pencil sketches of their proposals, which were then presented to Ms. Besser and Mr. Taminga for critique before making further revisions.

Once they had an approved design concept, students worked on their final project which they presented to the class as a whole, opening up the floor for “cool” and “warm” comments.

“We had students from the audience share what worked or what they thought could use improvement,” says Ms. Besser, explaining that being able to give gentle but constructive feedback (as well as being able to receive that feedback) is an important element of the unit.

Finally, faculty displayed the promotional posters along the main hall of the school as a way to draw students’ attention to the upcoming event.

One Step Further


In addition to posters created in the fine arts room, students who were part of Ms. Wildes’ 8th Grade Technology class designed promotional advertisements on Canva using the skills they’ve been learning this semester. Ms. Besser spoke to the students, presenting them with a similar challenge that she presented to the arts students, and then Ms. Wildes set them free to begin designing.

This opportunity to use their newly developing marketing skills in a real-life situation deepened students’ understanding of their craft as well as nudged them into new layers of receiving critique and finding ways to improve their work based on constructive feedback.

Topics: Middle School, Academics, Fine Arts, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

Sticky Faith at Minnehaha Academy

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 25, 2019


When then-junior Ava Perez Erickson’s faith hit “its lowest point,” she could have given up. She could have accepted that up to this point she had been a “circumstantial Christian,” that is, a Christian simply because the dice were rolled and she ended up in a Christian family attending a Christian school and surrounded by Christian ideals.

“I saw a world filled with multiple religions, each claiming to be the way,” she says, looking back on this season. “I watched people consciously attack their neighbors and fill the world with suffering...I no longer had complete trust or confidence in God; in fact, I was no longer sure if I had ever felt his presence.”

Ava’s questions nibbled away at her childhood faith, eventually leaving behind what felt like a shaky framework of ideals that couldn’t hold the weight of her doubt.

Ava's struggle mirrors that of many across the nation.

Roughly 50% of church-going, graduating seniors walk out of their school doors that last time and away from their faith journeys.

Some wrestle with similar questions to the ones Ava faced. Others struggle with the tension between faith and science. Some don’t see faith as relevant to their busy lives.

But this statistic leaves us with a question: What about the other 50%? Why did some face the questions and realities of an imperfect world and somehow continue the faith walk?

Sticky Faith

A few years back Fuller Seminary researcher, Kara Powell, came to Minnehaha Academy to discuss what she and research partner Chap Clark call “Sticky Faith,” that is, faith that sticks with individuals through the challenges and changes of life.

Drs. Powell and Clark point out that while parents hold the most important role in their child’s faith development, the wider community must also come alongside students’ growth—and struggles—in order to nurture a vibrant faith that actually grows instead of shrivels in the face of questions. 

While each student must take ownership for their own faith journey, we as a community have a responsibility to provide scaffolding for that journey. Following are just a few of the areas of "Sticky Faith" that MA integrates into our community.

Understand the Core


Sticky Faith starts with understanding the core of what it means to walk with Christ, as opposed to simply affirming certain beliefs.

Powell and Clark say that young people (and their elders) often equate faith with “spiritual disciplines, ‘good works,’ and living as an example of Christianity that would please God.”

You might reread that last line and wonder, is that really so off?

But this lifestyle of external faith—dos and don’ts, if you will—doesn’t sustain Sticky Faith; at the end of the day, it misses the point of our faith.

From their earliest years at Minnehaha, students engage with the Bible. The awesome parts, the beautiful parts, the confusing parts, and the disturbing ones.

“We’re with the Israelites right now, and things aren’t going well,” laughs first grade teacher Britt Guild. ‘’They keep making mistakes and worshipping idols.” But this, she points out, is an opportunity to ask, what is God trying to tell us?

And what is he saying? What is the point of faith, if not to be a good person and do things that please God?

“At the heart of Sticky Faith is a faith that trusts in God and that understands that obedience is a response to that trust, in everything,” explain Powell and Clark.

When, during advisory or a class discussion, students engage in difficult discussions about race, family culture, or differing beliefs, this is an opportunity to trust. We call them to speak with respect and to listen well not because “it’s what nice people do,” but because we know that God calls us to act in love. We trust that when we relate in ways that honor God and his principles he will bring greater good in those conversations than we could make happen on our own.

Wrestle Openly With Doubt


Doubt, explains Powell, "is most toxic when it goes unexpressed."

For Ava, doubt had been building slowly but deeply. Unspoken doubt tends to overwhelm our vision, keeping us stuck in the questions. This is the place so many leave their faith.

“When asked about my faith, I said what I was supposed to say rather than truthfully admitting my anger towards a God who did not pay attention to me, despite my constant pleas for direction and assurance [in my faith],” Ava admits.

There is, however, great hope in the face of doubt.

Research shows that when their community allows students to express and openly struggle with their doubt, those students are actually more likely to develop a rich, deeply rooted spiritual life that flourishes

We want students to know that hard questions and difficult discussions are honored and even welcomed here.

This spring during advisory time, Middle School students explored Lee Strobel’s work The Case for Christ. While Strobel’s book is a journalistic look at the evidence for Christ from the fields of science, philosophy, and history, faculty didn’t push students to ignore any lingering doubts.

Instead, they offered time to be open about and wrestle honestly with their uncertainty. For some, Strobel’s work offered many helpful answers. For others, new questions arose which allowed for deeper discussion.

At the Upper School, Dr. Jeffrey Crafton’s Senior Capstone gives students an opportunity to discuss and even challenge the foundational beliefs of Christianity. From the existence of God to the problem of evil, Dr. Crafton gives an overview of the topic and then opens the floor for discussion.

“The thing I loved most about his class is that not everyone had to have the same viewpoint,” says 2015 grad Alexander Ramos. “That stirred up so much conversation, and that was completely okay.”

Dr. Crafton explains that the class “is designed to help students make the transition from ‘this is what I’ve been told to believe’ to ‘these are decisions I’m making for myself about what I believe.’”

This, says ‘01 grad Stephanie Williams O’Brien, helped prepare her when she faced her own crisis of faith just a few years after graduation. “I felt equipped to wrestle through it because of my experience at MA and the ways that Dr. Crafton would push us to ask these questions and not just settle for lame answers.”

Take Part in the 5:1 Ratio


On that fateful day in January, when Ava felt the crushing weight of her many questions, she climbed the steps to Mr. Hoffner’s room. “Mr. Hoffner," she said, "I need your help."

By seeking out David Hoffner, her New Testament teacher, Ava was actually taking one of the most important steps for those who develop a faith that sticks: connecting with older mentors.

Powell’s work suggests that students flourish when they have at least five adult, non-parent mentors who can provide a listening ear as well as engage in faith and life discussions.

Faculty members, like Middle School math teacher Andrew Beach, look for open doors to share pieces of their own faith journeys with students, both the victories and the disappointments. Because of this openness, students are more likely to feel safe sharing their questions and struggles, as well as asking for prayer.

“I am truly impressed," Beach says, when noting his students' willingness to be vulnerable about these things, "because they seem to have a trust of our advisory class. And then to hear the responses of the students! I think that’s been the neatest part—to hear the students respond respectfully and then to come alongside and encourage, especially when someone is struggling with something that's deeper.”

At Peace with the Process


Sticky Faith develops when we help students recognize that the faith walk is a process. You don’t suddenly “arrive” one day, with every question answered.

That day Mr. Hoffner didn’t pluck all of the stones from Ava’s path to make it question-free. He didn’t offer her the three-step plan to demolish doubt or an apologetic to help her feel God’s presence again.

Instead he entered into the place of doubt alongside her, allowing her to process her questions and acknowledging that there were some things he couldn’t answer.

“Mr. Hoffner told me that questions allow us to delve deeper into faith because they require us to search out answers through prayer or reading the Bible,” Ava shares. He also warned her that she wouldn’t find answers to every single question: if we understood all things completely, faith—that is, trust—would be unnecessary.

“My questions have taught me to never stop seeking answers,” Ava shared in her graduation Baccalaureate speech. “By seeking answers we grow in faith.” The very process forces us to come face to face with the God who is, as opposed to the incomplete and weak images of God passed down by culture or influenced by our own biases.

Today Ava studies Biomedical Sciences at Liberty University. Instead of being afraid of the questions that her studies might stir up, she has learned to lean into them and ask, what is God trying to tell us?

Instead of crushing her faith, Ava's season of doubt, combined with a community willing to give her space to process, birthed a deeper trust and a more integrated faith walk.


Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Academics, Cultivating Potential

French Students Take Home National Honors

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 18, 2019

2019-MS-French Exam awards

Middle School French students have acquitted themselves very well again this year on Le Grand Concours (the National French contest).

Seventh Grade French Honors:

Honorable Mention
16th Nationally and 4th in Minnesota
Robert “Xavier” Wilson

Bronze Medalists
14th Nationally and 3rd in Minnesota
Elaina “Célia” Johnson

12th Nationally and 2nd in Minnesota
Tito “Cédric” Sanchez


Eighth Grade French Honors:

Honorable Mention
21st Nationally and 20th in Minnesota
Jonah “Félix” Hixon  

19th Nationally and 18th in Minnesota
Makenzie “Rose” Streed

15th Nationally and 14th in Minnesota 
Ruben “Guy” Rubio Ramirez

14th Nationally and 13th in Minnesota
Danny “Daniel” Geyer

Bronze Medalists
12th Nationally and 11th in Minnesota
Kayla “Angélique” Riddley • Sofia “Claire” Howland

11th Nationally and 10th in Minnesota
Kennedi “Marie-Claire” Brumley

10th in the Nation and 9th in Minnesota
Ella “Sylvie” Pickerign • Jasmine “Agathe” Waktola

Silver Medalists
7th Nationally and 7th in Minnesota
Halle “Zoé” Whitman

Gold Medalists
4th Nationally and 4th in Minnesota
Daniel Ma

3rd Nationally and 3rd in Minnesota
Elizabeth “Elisabeth” Weber


Félicitations à tous!

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Academics

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